Thursday, January 21, 2021

Melting Glass In Your Microwave: Fun With Microwave Kilns

There comes a time after the busy holiday season each year when my jewelry making comes to rest. I know somewhere in this blog I've written about it before. It's a time when all the hustle and bustle is over and done with and artists and craftspeople can take a deep breath and enjoy the slower pace that the New Year brings. 

Over the years I've found that this is a really special time of year for me. It's when I peek out from my jewelry-making cave, take a deep breath of fresh air and then think to myself, "what's next?!"

It's a time when I not only need a break from making the same type of jewelry that I make over and over again, but it's also a time to un-pop the cork and allow my creativity to travel in an entirely new direction. I look forward to it every year.  

But what's really special about this little "vacation" time of year is that I will usually invest in an entirely new art or craft venture. I try out something that is entirely new to me, that I always wanted to try. The outcome of these ventures varies. Sometimes I find something that I really enjoy, and so I continue to do it (watercolor painting being one), while other times those new supplies or equipment get put on the back burner. But the best times are when I learn something new and then in some way, incorporate that into my everyday art. 

One year I bought a tabletop mini-kiln for enameling, and the basic supplies to go with. I learned about frit and stringers and having to enamel the reverse sides of pieces. I learned that you can enamel on pennies! 

One year I tried out Batik. Another year, polymer clay. Yet another year, liquid resin. Then watercolor paints and acrylics. There've been others too -- and off the top of my head I don't remember what -- but when the pandemic began last spring, I decided to once again try something that I always wanted to try but just didn't have the time for: fusing glass in a microwave kiln. 

You mean you can melt glass in a microwave?

Like the microwave in your kitchen? 

Yes, that's right! I was so curious about how this worked, so I did a bit of research, and I was quickly sold on the idea of making my very own mini melted glass masterpieces in my Sharp Carousel. The best part about it? The ENTIRE setup (not including the microwave, of course) was under $75.00 USD. 

Now, with a bit of research and reading the first thing that you will learn is that you need to use an old, extra microwave with a turntable (hello thrift store) and not your good kitchen microwave. You also want to read as much as you can about how it is done and watch YouTube videos as well. 

Another thing you will learn is that you can't just use any old glass in a microwave kiln. You must use glasses that are compatible in that they have the same COE (coefficients of thermal expansion, re: they have to expand at same rate or will break later on down the road). It might sound a bit confusing at first but it actually is very simple. 

Anyway, aside from all that technical stuff, the whole point of this blog post is just to give you a peek at what came in my microwave kiln kit and show you the first project that I made. 

The photo above is what came in my kit - I think I paid around $65.00 + tax, and once I had it in my hands I was super-impressed by all that it came with and the quality of the items. I also did a lot of browsing the 'net before I picked out my microwave kiln and I found that lots of different places sell them but for the most part, they are pretty much all the same aside from what size you choose. I chose the XL version and was glad that I did, since that allows me to create larger things like ornaments and coasters and not just small items. 

It's also important to have safety equipment first and foremost. You need to have a heat-proof surface to set your kiln on when you remove it from the microwave, such as fireproof bricks, as it will be extremely hot (well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit), and you will need heat proof gloves and eye protection and of course a fire extinguisher in case of emergency. You also should use your microwave kiln for melting glass in a ventilated area such as a basement or garage. 

You can see what my kiln came with in the photo above: the kiln itself (it's two-part, with a base and a lid), safety gloves, different kinds of glass, a glass cutter, some jewelry findings, a file, and kiln shelf paper that you MUST use beneath your glass or it will melt to the kiln and your kiln will be ruined. There was even millefiori and dichroic glass included in my kit! 

It was now time to make my first project....

For my first project I cut some thin strips of green and yellow glass and carefully sandwiched the pieces right up against each other (steady hand needed!) then I placed three white and yellow flower patterned millefiori glass pieces on top and let 'er rip. 

After about 5 minutes in my mighty microwave kiln I had my finished fused glass cabochon, seen here:

I loved how it turned out! I was quickly sold on the entire concept of microwave kilns for fusing and melting glass. It's fast, fun, inexpensive, and just so cool! 

I hope you enjoyed this quick look into what a microwave kiln is and let me know, have you ever used one? What type of art or craft do you do in you "down time?"

You might also like:

Article copyright Laura Beth Love 2021 and may not be republished in print or other media without express written permission from the author. For any link updates or corrections leave correct info in comment area.